Saturday, October 20, 2007

Global warming kills coal-fired electric plant — in a red state

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment turned down a permit Thursday for twin 700-mW coal-fired electric plants in southwest Kansas. It cited global warming concerns as the reason for the denial.

If a regulatory agency in a “red” state like Kansas will do this, there may be hope for a bottom-up addressing of global warming issues, even if W. fiddles while America swelters on the top-down side.

The department’s staff had recommended issuing the air quality permits, but Roderick L. Bremby, the secretary of the department, said in a statement, “I believe it would be irresponsible to ignore emerging information about the contribution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to climate change and the potential harm to our environment and health if we do nothing.”

Meanwhile, Sunflower Electric Power Corporation tried to spin the decision:
A spokesman, Stephen J. Miller, said the court decision merely permitted regulations on carbon dioxide but did not create them. “There are no carbon dioxide regulations in the federal rules or in Kansas,” Miller said.

That’s exactly why Bremby’s decision is such a big deal. He went beyond the letter of the law to exercise discretionary concern. The story notes that, according to the Sierra Club, this is the first time a power plant application has been rejected on global warming grounds and that various environmental groups intend to use this precedent in other states.

More below the fold at the link:

For more on the variety of opposition coal-fired electric power plants are drawing, including rock-ribbed red state opposition, see this story. When a Republican cattle rancher in Montana is concerned, you know that global warming denialists of the far right are playing out the tether

Big Coal and Big Electricity aren’t taking this lying down, though:
“It’s clear new coal-fired generation is running into roadblocks,” said Rick Sergel, president and chief executive of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. “I don’t believe we can allow coal-fired generation to become an endangered species. We simply must use all the resources we have.”

The story notes that red-state opposition is mainly in red states west of the Mississippi, where many GOPers already dislike Bush-Cheney over things like coal-bed methane, massive natural gas drilling on BLM land and other things that threaten hunting and fishing.

Red-staters in the South are the heartland of global warming denialists and apparently unconcerned about sweltering in ever-higher heat — and humidity, which global warming will also bring to already-humid areas.

And, even in the West, the hunting and shooting aspects of environmentalism still trump global warming concerns in many places:
“I think global warming is a hoax, and I hate to hitch my wagon to environmentalists,” C. J. Kantorowicz said recently in his living room after a hard day planting winter wheat. “I went to the meeting with the mind that I’d shoot holes in her story, her environmentalist’s view. But she and others convinced me they were right by being honest and answering our questions in detail about pollution and such.”

But, getting a rancher in Montana just to sit down long enough to listen to an environmentalist is a step forward.

And, the continued boom in wind power promises Western farmers and ranchers of the High Plains and Front Range some serious supplemental income — another reason they’re willing to stop and listen to environmentalists.

Perhaps some state regulators, not just environmental groups, will sit up and take notice of Kansas, too. Or, maybe, some state legislators and governors.